Archive for July 25, 2015

My Hour-and-a-Half Tesla P85D Test Drive

On Friday I had a business meeting in Princeton, NJ, about 90 minutes from my house. My co-worker Brian had just bought a Tesla P85D – that’s the Performance model with dual motors and over 650 HP (going to 760 HP when the “Ludicrous Speed” firmware update goes in any day now!). On the way home, Brian let me… no insisted that I drive the car all the way back. Brian is a really trusting guy 🙂

 

 

That’s me, driving the P85D for the first time. The video does NOT do justice to the experience. I have driven or been driven in some very Hi-Po cars. 850-HP Mustang GT500, 750 HP Viper, and some heavily worked Grand Nationals/GNX, all driven very hard by crazy owners (or myself). I have taken a 150 HP motorcycle on the drag strip and wheeled the first 60 feet. NONE of that compares to the feeling of the Tesla. The key thing is that the Tesla produces peak torque from a dead stop, 0 rpm. So the first half second of the launch is like nothing a gasoline-powered vehicle could ever do (except maybe a purpose-built top fuel dragster).

Watch the video: when I punch it, you see the camera jerk. That is impossible to prevent. If your head is not held against the headrest, it will smack into it. You get the same sensation in your inner ear and in your gut as you get on a modern high-end looping roller coaster. I am not kidding when I say that there is a moment of dizziness as the car takes off.

I tried some fast turns, just to see how it feels. The specs on the car put it at way over 2 tons. It certainly does not feel like a sports car. It feels very… Solid. Like a really big Benz. Part of it is that the weight is carried very low. All the batteries are under the floor. So when cornering hard in a fast sweeping turn, there is zero roll and absolutely zero looseness. The car is very tight and the steering has no lash in it so it feels like a high-end GT sedan should.

The car itself is beautiful, in metal-flake blue with tasteful carbon fiber accents:

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And yes, here is proof that it’s a real P85D:

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It has a roomy trunk!

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The interior is absolutely worthy of the rather steep price. Reminds me of a high-end German car. Apparently it’s totally customizable, and the buyer gets to pick what kind of leather, headliner, dash accents, etc. It has by far the largest touch screen I have ever seen in a car for the dashboard management system:

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That is at LEAST a 22″ screen, and it controls everything. There are only maybe 4 physical buttons in the dash. The rest is software controlled.

And you can do amazing things. Like, you can control the suspension height and the car will remember the setting for that exact GPS location. So if you have a speed bump in your neighborhood that you need to manage, you do it once and the car will lift it’s skirt over that bump every time in the future.

You can also make changes to things like the degree of simulated engine braking. You may note in the video that I comment on this; Brian had the car set to very heavy “engine braking”, so you drove it like… an electric car (duh!). Lift the throttle past a certain point and it would go into regenerative braking so that for 90% of the drive I never had to touch the brake. And I was reassured that when it brakes harder than a certain degree, it also lights the brake lights so as not to confuse the cars behind you. It was a little unusual at first, but I got used to it quickly and I could see that you might want to set it that way.

If this is the future of electric vehicles, Bring it on! This ain’t your father’s crunchy-granola Birkenstock-wearing hair shirt suffering Electric Vehicle. The Tesla is totally amazing, and I think this was Elon Musk’s plan; build a car that people actually desire. Make it so cool that people see an EV as a thing to aspire to, not something you do because it’s good for you.

The Tesla P85D is like eating your steak, not eating your vegetables. And that is a very good thing.